Ballroom in a Few Gifs #3

When someone suggests running “just one more set of rounds”

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Tanning.  Every.  Single. Time.

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Getting woken up by all the bronze and newcomer dancers getting ready at 4 am

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Sitting through countless bronze rounds with no end in sight.

Winning bronze, cause that ish is hard!

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My reaction to people who double-register at competitions for all four styles.  Or those who are dancing open in all four styles.

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Spacing out, then realizing I have to be in line to dance RIGHT NOW.

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Trying out some new choreography for the first time at a competition.

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Getting a callback!

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Thinking we got a callback, but realizing it’s another couple’s number instead.

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When the emcee mispronounces a not-so-hard name during results.  Again.

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What goes on inside my head when I’ve realized they haven’t called our names yet and there’s only 1st place left.

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How I actually behave when I’ve realized they haven’t called our names yet and there’s only 1st place left.

 

Decompressing the day after getting home from a comp

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America’s Ballroom Challenge Episode 3 Review

The grand finale!  You can see it here.  So this is the ultimate showdown between the representatives from all four styles.  I still don’t get how this is judged (Compare each to the best in the world?  Look at entertainment value? Toss a few coins?), but we’ll go with it.  They will start with a short program, which is supposed to be a more traditional piece that features a typical dance and steps from their respective category, and then a long program that can be more freeform in style.  I don’t think they actually stuck with these guidelines very much, as the long programs seemed to be more thematically traditional.

We start with the Perzhus performing a pretty smooth waltz to a popular song that I hear in competition all the time, “Song for Viola,” which had a sad/ethereal vibe.  It was very pretty but a little sleepy.  Next were Emmanuel and Liana representing rhythm, dancing a fun mambo.   Girl rocks the feathers in a way that most people can’t.  In person, it took three attempts for this performance to work out, due to various technical issues.  Great performance, though I did notice that parts of this routine were exactly the same as from their competition mambo.

Brief break with a super cute mother and son couple dancing a cha-cha.  This kid was ridiculously good, with a lot of star power.

Artem and Inna, the standard couple, gave a kind of bizarre quickstep performance.  They had Inna with lots of extra bust and butt padding, playing a Chiquita banana lady sort of character.  They incorporated some samba steps into their quickstep, to go along with the tropical theme.  I was not crazy about the costuming choice – kind of unnecessary.

Roman and Anna finished up the set of short program routines with an okay cha cha.  Roman entered the floor prancing around in a boa, which I don’t think men should do in general, while Anna rocked a pinstripe jumpsuit overall thing.  Overall, with the short program, I think the American style dancers did the best, which was reflected in their placements:  Emmanuel in Liana in first, Peter and Alexandra in second, Roman and Anna in third, and Artem and Inna in fourth.

Carlos and Dora’s Exorcist piece

We then move on to some theatre arts, woot!  Theatre arts at Ohio Star Ball is great to watch.  It’s definitely acrobatic and lots of stuff that make you go, “what just happened” and “how the hell did they just do that?!” and you don’t often see it in general.  Never at the collegiate level, that’s for sure.  This was actually a competition, but ABC didn’t mention that aspect.  The first performance from Carlos and DOra was an awesome Exorcist-themed dance, which was definitely out there.  I loved it!  Very well performed, creepy, and had good tricks and dancing incorporated into it.  Usually theatre arts stuff just comes in two varieties: romantic flowy themes and intense warrior/tribal pieces, so this was very refreshing.  Justin and Kimalee went next – they’re here every single year and always have a good performance.  They did a romantic piece to Sam Smith that was lovely, with awesome lifts, great transitions, and nicely portrayed emotions.    Third was Shane and Shannon Jensen, a rhythm couple who had some ridiculous transitions.  I think they ultimately won.

Now, the long program!  The Perzhus opened with a fantastic smooth tango, one of my favorites.  It had a flirty, passionate, classic, yet soft feel to it that really worked.  They also had really great musicality.  As a standard dancer, I also really appreciated the inclusion of substantial closed-hold choreography.  The costuming was also fantastic, a nice balance of classic/simple and adorned.  Definitely my favorite out of the bunch.

Emmanuel and Liana went next with a bolero that was very pretty.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about her outfit, which resembled an old curtain/doily.  Artem and Inna followed with a gorgeous foxtrot to Amelie music, which was so much better than their first piece.  Super smooth, ethereal, and technically sound.  Inna is super elegant.  Roman and Anna closed with a pretty traditional paso doble that was great, but lost a bit of steam at the end.

In the end, Emmanuel and Liana took the overall win by placing 2nd in the long program to Roman and Anna’s 1st.  The Perzhus somehow got fourth for their tango, which I thought was b.s.  It was nice for rhythm to have its moment, though.  In the past, I think International style was heavily favored in this all-star competition, so it’s great to see American style becoming more popular and appreciated.

Looking back, some of my favorite performances were:  Max and Michelle’s VW to Sam Smith’s “Not in That Way.”  It might not have been the best dance, but the song and simple feel were lovely, as were the emotional but not overwrought performance.   Artem and Inna’s foxtrot in this episode, as well as the Perzhus’ tango and the Exorcist cabaret/theatre arts (does anyone know the actual difference between the two categories?).  I also really liked the Perzhus’ mambo from episode 1.

Overall, ABC did a nice job of showcasing showcases, not so much of showing typical competitive ballroom.  However, given a general audience, watching showdances is probably more popular and understandable.  I appreciated having two knowledgeable commentators, but wished they could have provided more useful information about how judges might distinguish among the different couples and how things are scored.  From the competitors, I would’ve liked to have seen more creative pieces, but most of them were very nice, generally.  For the whole show, I’d give it a B/B+.

Here are my reviews of Episode 1 & Episode 2

America’s Ballroom Challenge Episode 2 Review

Episode 2 of America’s Ballroom Challenge: International Style!  I was surprised to find out that Mary was an Austrian (random) standard champion.  I pictured her as a rhythm dancer or something, but it turns out she did a bit of everything.  They played the everyone-on-the-floor-at-the-same-time mini-round of waltz, which was kinda cool.  In person, it’s pretty chaotic, but visually very cool, with 30-40+ couples on the floor simultaneously.  First were the “group rounds” of foxtrot and quickstep.  At least these were in order this time, as opposed to last week’s smooth dances.  Loved the bit of mini-formation team feather, reverse turn, three step sequence.  I timed it and they only showed about 50 seconds of each dance, which was really not enough to make anything of them.  Boo.  Would another 40 seconds really hurt?  Next was quickstep.

Showdances next.  Standard showdances can be kinda boring at times, so I was intrigued to see what these couples came up with.  These were more varied in dance style/theme than the smooth dances, so that was at least somewhat refreshing.  My favorite thematically was probably Andrey and Anna’s Marilyn Monroe piece, but the hair and costuming were a bit distracting, with her wig flopping around a lot.  A lot of hairspray would’ve helped with that.  Also slightly cringed when Anna overshot the lift and almost fell behind Andrey.  I’m pretty sure they’re one of the most attractive couples on the floor, especially when he doesn’t wear a shirt (from past years).  But I digress.  Oscar and Lenka had an awkward boy-themed foxtrot, with juvenile outfits, that I just didn’t get.  The cowboy-themed quickstep from Canadian couple Anton and Anna was cute.  Artem and Inna, the frontrunners, did a lovely emotionally expressive and technically sound foxtrot to My Heart Will Go On.  I giggled when he kissed her ear at the end (they’re married).  Loved her eye makeup.  Girl rocks the flowy dresses.  Denis and Lesya’s lyrical foxtrot was nice, but not very memorable.  Loved her green dress and loose hair.  Interestingly, she’s Max Sinitsa’s niece and used to dance with him.  The hosts might have mentioned that briefly at some point.  A quick search on Dancesport Info showed that Igor and Ekaterina had danced together way longer than the five and a half years reported by Mary.  They danced together, broke up, and then re-partnered and went pro together.  Their French-themed quickstep was solid but not super interesting.  In general, I found that the women were more expressive than the men, which is especially the case in standard, I think.  You tend to find a lot of tall stoic standard men.

Denis & Lesya

Anton & Anna

Ultimately, in the show dance, Denis and Lesya placed first, Andrey and Anna second, and Anton and Anna third, which surprised me.  Artem and Inna were in fourth, but will represent the standard style anyway, since they were first for the five other dances, I believe.

Brief featurette with the DJ Brent Mills, which was nice, I guess.  On to Latin!  They were gracious enough to show us one entire round of jive.  I wasn’t really familiar with any of these people except for Roman and Anna.  Was hoping that Riccardo and Yulia would show up this year, but no dice, alas.  I liked the plain leopard dress.  It’s nice when people go unconventionally simple and unadorned.  On the other hand, one male dancer decided to wear glittery pants.  No.

Showdances!  Lots of rumbas, of course.   Lots of rumbas in silky shirt-type outfits.  Kamil and Anna’s was nice, but I was confused by her wet-looking shirtdress.  Maybe it was on purpose, based on the storm noises in the music?  Or she was just really sweaty?  Also, they continued the Barbra Streisand theme from last week.  We had definitely heard this exact song, “Don’t Go Away”, during smooth for Mazen and Izabella’s showdance.  On another note, Kamil’s facial hair is an example of a goatee that really works for ballroom, at least in Latin/rhythm.  Roman and Anna did another version of angsty silky-shirt rumba.  A little too much running around for my taste, but they had a really cute moment together at the end.  Also, she is so freaking tan!  She made him look super pale in comparison, even though he’s not particularly white.  Dmitry and Olena did a jive to “Happy” with awkward NYC-themed outfits that I didn’t get.  For once, the hosts had some critique to offer about their side-by-side choreo and costuming.  Evgeny and Maria did a very traditional but good paso…at least it was to a song other than Spanish Gypsy Dance.  Vitaliy and Eugenia’s cha cha, with her in a catsuit, finished off the set.  Pretty fun, and the catsuit worked for the Michael Jackson theme.  The all-black look unfortunately led them to blend into the background a bit, though.  The slower music choice also made them look a bit sluggish at times.

Roman & super-tan Anna

I didn’t have any particular favorite out of the Latin showdances.  Top three showdance placements (at least, based on the lineups):  Roman and Anna, Andrey and Yulia, Kamil and Anna.  Which were, coincidentally (not really), the exact same rankings for the group dances. Side note, all 6 ladies’ names ended in “a”, and three of the men’s names ended in “I” or “y”.  Eastern Europeans!

Overall, solid.  Nothing especially stood out to me, but it was all great dancing and solid performances.  Definitely the best ballroom dancing you’ll see on TV.  In past years, I think people have been more creative in their choices, but it’s not something to expect on a regular basis.

To come soon: a review of Episode 3, the grand finale!  I still don’t understand how they can judge and compare dancers in completely different styles, but we’ll keep chugging along.

Click here for my review of Episode 1, which featured American style pros.

Ballroom in a Few Gifs #2

How I feel while wearing a really feathery old-school ballroom dress

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A week before trying to fit into that sexy-cutout number

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Trying to review a figure with a newbie

Cheering on friends who are better than you at a particular style

When my partner wants to eff around with our choreography again, adding something he saw on YouTube.

Moving up a level

Learning a new technical concept from my coach

When *those* people win yet again

Being a grad student on a collegiate team

Ballroom Bargains – May 2015 Edition

I just missed the pre-Mother’s Day sale at Danceshopper, but they might have another special (10% off or thereabouts) around Memorial Day.

They have a LOT of Dance America items on sale, and I’ve put together a list of outfits you can mix-and-match.  Particularly if you like red.  So much red.  (They are non-returnable, so make sure you really want them!)

Another color is jade.  These items are all in size small:

Some of the items listed above are available in royal (blue), but there were fewer.  I’ve starred those for your convenience.

Two more items in royal:

A few items in oxblood:

Other Apparel Brands

Victoria Blitz Ballroom Dance Dress – Lacy Top, black x-large, $263

Santoria Paradeisos Ballroom Dance Dress, variety of sizes/colors, $209

RS Atelier Carlotta Kimono Ballroom Dress (doesn’t look anything like a kimono to me), small black, $213

Gio Mio Magnella Geometric Pattern Latin Dress in medium black/white.  Definitely a unique design! $175

Espen Edelweiss Off-Shoulder Ruche Dance Top in small or medium, $119-$135

Capezio Cap-Sleeve Rhinestoned Leotard, $38

Capezio Ruffle Tank Top, $27

Metallic Halter Dress, $29

Shoes

Freed of London Sylvia Latin Shoes in a few sizes, $77-101

Supadance 1531 smooth shoes (better for wider feet), in a couple of sizes, $105

General Sales:

America’s Ballroom Challenge Episode 1 Review

The highly-anticipated America’s Ballroom Challenge aired on PBS this past Friday!  I lamented my sad TV antennae’s lack of PBS reception, but it turns out that the episode is available streaming online, at least for now!  It’s just under an hour.  This review will contain spoilers about placements, if you care about such things.

I had the fortune of being able to see all of the aired dances live at Ohio Star Ball, back in November.  Hmm, guess I didn’t write up a review of it then…should have, whoops.  Anyway.  The pro competition was all at night, in the Big Ballroom (I can’t remember what it’s actually called…maybe the Regency Ballroom or something similar).  There’s at least 3 different competition ballrooms in the Columbus Convention Center during OSB, with amateur, pro-am, and collegiate events going on.  People dressed up to the nines for the evening competition and we collegiate competitors were fortunately given admission to each of the nights as part of our registration.  If I recall correctly, the first night was rhythm and standard and the second night was smooth and Latin.  Or the other way around.  Doesn’t matter, I suppose.

They started with the normal four-or-five dances, whittling first rounds or quarterfinals down to 6-couple finals.  After the finals, each style’s finalists performed a short show dance.  Since this was at the end of the night and apparently most people didn’t care about them that much, a lot of the audience left, to the producers’ chagrin.  They all but begged us few stragglers to remain until the end to flesh out the audience for TV.  Also, we had to film audience reactions and clapping and such, which sometimes took multiple takes and hurt my palms.  But hey, the more important people with nicer seats left, so we could move up and get closer to the action on the dance floor.

The first ABC episode features American style smooth and rhythm.  They played brief clips of early rounds and for whatever reason aired part of the “group” Viennese Waltz first, then foxtrot.  Okay?  First of all, random order.  Second, I’d rather have shorter rounds of all four dances, if time is so limited.  I’m one of the cell phones in the audience during the VW! Totally cheesy but it looked cool.  Also, they caught a really nice moment of the Perzhus interacting with the audience and each other at the end of foxtrot.  They showed everyone briefly, and commentators Mary Murphy and Tony Meredith didn’t say anything particularly offensive, nor did they contribute a whole lot of insight.  However, having two ballroom experts is much better than having one ballroom person and one rando who doesn’t seem to know anything about anything and offers inane comments (see the last few years of the show…). They did mention that the Perzhus were current champions eventually, but didn’t say if anyone was poised to challenge them or anything like that.  Could have also mentioned how smooth originated from standard but has more freedom.

Mazen & Izabella’s showdance

After the “two” group dances, they showed the six couples’ showdances and made them sound way more important than being simply a fifth dance that would contribute to the overall placement.  Five out of six were beautiful but same-y angsty emotional contemporary-ish sorts of numbers.  Mary and Tony said they were all Viennese waltzes, but some were distinctly not – they were just kind of interpretive lyrical pieces or vaguely-foxtrots (4/4 at least, definitely not danced in 6/8 timing).  I enjoyed them all, but they did kind of mush together by the end of the night.  Nick Cherumukhin and Viktoriya’s piece was a nice surprise – I had never really watched them before.  Max and Michelle’s Viennese Waltz was refreshing with bare feet and pajama-esque costuming, but needed more polish, I think.  I loved her with Mayo Alanen, but this partnership needs more time, probably.  Loved the Tufts’ sassy, sexy foxtrot to “You Can Leave Your Hat On”.  Not what you would expect from dancers who originated from the Mormon-dominated Utah ballroom scene. Hello, suspenders.  Also no mention of how the Tufts do theatre arts as well (which is impressive in and of itself because she is much taller than most tiny theatre arts ladies) and are more seasoned in complicated lifts than the other smooth couples.

Brief break to show Mary Murphy “shopping” at all the OSB vendors.  Mostly it just made me sad that I can’t afford any of those amazing dresses and pieces of jewelry.  Show me more dancing!

Nazar & Irina’s showdance costumes. Yup.

Onto the rhythm section (the beat!).  Great representation here, in terms of the best rhythm dancers coming to compete.  Again, just showing two dances from the “group” section, out of order, with mambo and swing.  Okay.  And not paying much attention to the obvious winners, Emmanuel and Liana, until their showdance that featured a nifty costume transition.  The individual showdances for rhythm were more varied and interesting, even though half were mambos.  The Paramonovs were entertaining as always – I’ve seen them use this song before as a preface to a cha-cha version of the song “Why Don’t You Do Right”.  Of particular note were Nazar and Irina’s ridiculously over-the-top costumes, complete with huge tri-color ruffles and Irina’s tiny Swarovski-stoned bikini bottom…thing.  She was extremely naked, even if her legs/butt were technically covered with nude mesh fabric.  Funny how Mary and Tony didn’t say a word about that.  And that the episode was rated G.  Okay.  The Perzhus did the exact same matching-suited mambo as they did last year, but it was still awesome.  Wish I could pull off a stoned bra and suit combo.

What was very cool was spotting people I know in the audience.  It’s a small (ballroom) world after all…  I even spotted some of my team members for a hot second.  One of the best aspects of this program is that it’s the best TV depiction of ballroom dancing out there – a much more accurate, genuine take on the ballroom world, compared to shows like Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance that pretend you can learn and master, or at least fake, ballroom in a week.  This show seems to better appreciate how technical and complicated the dance form really is.  And nowadays, it can sometimes be hard to find free high-quality video of good pro dancers that uses multiple camera angles and pretty good editing.  If I remember correctly, PBS ballroom shows were probably my first exposure to ballroom dancing as a kid, though I didn’t have any personal interest in it at the time.  Funding has been limited or non-existent for the past few years, so it’s fantastic that they were able to bring it back this year, even if it was just in this limited three 1-hour-long episode format.

In the end, the overall winners are Peter & Alexandra Perzhu and Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine & Liana Churilova, who will go to the “grand finale.”  I still don’t know how this is really determined – how can you compare smooth to standard to Latin to rhythm showdances?

Next week: International style!  Spoiler – think of how much better it would have been if only the world champions and finalists had shown up!  Still some great dancing, though.  Riccardo & Yulia, Arunas & Katusha, and Victor & Anastasia have all shown up at OSB in the past, but have been mysteriously absent for the past of couple years.  I think sometimes they skipped because a bigger world competition was going on, but I don’t know about this time around.  Mysterious.  It’s basically my only chance to see them compete live, so it was too bad that they weren’t there.

Here’s an outsider’s take on the show: What happens in a ballroom can be little shocking.  Uh, okay.  Lovely last paragraph, though.